Sunday, July 15, 2018

Presumption of innocence: Sexual assault investigations: Why must they be thorough and impartial - and based on much more than merely believing the 'victim.' Read distinguished Canadian author Steven Galloway's commentary (published by The National Post) in which Galloway reveals how shocking accusations of sexual assault devastated his career and his life - and trampled his rights and his privacy..."Though I have no wish to quarrel with anyone, I will no longer be silent. I won’t accept further shame or bullying, or the lies that have been told about me. I was investigated and I was exonerated. An arbitrator ruled that UBC (The University of British Columbia) violated my privacy rights and caused damage to my reputation. I won’t let others define me in ways that ignore these central facts."


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: As previously noted on this Blog, Cressida Dick, Scotland Yard's new Commissioner, (appointed about a year ago),  has changed her force's policy from always believing  the 'victims' from the outset because they are inherently being truthful,  to one of investigating sexual assault claims  throughly and impartially.  Commissioner Dick was careful to insist that officers keep an open mind, treat complainants with respect and dignity,  listen to them and  record what they say.  But she stressed that "From that moment on, we are investigators." The reasoning behind this new policy is relevant  not just to police investigations but to investigations  launched  in  other institutions, wherever they may be, such as universities, show-biz and the business world. Commissioner Dick's  wise words should be kept in mind when  reading  the following account by prominent Canadian author Steven Galloway in which he reveals how shocking accusations of sexual assault devastated his career and his life - and trampled his rights and his privacy.

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.

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PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "All victims of sexual assault are owed justice. All women should be listened to and all complaints and accusations thoroughly and fairly investigated. Many of the preconceptions we have about sexual assault have been, historically, entirely wrong. But listening, as a default position, should not mean that any accused person is automatically, irrevocably guilty. It is not the case that 100 per cent of assault allegations are true, though that certainly would make the world simpler. Only in fascist states does an allegation equal a conviction, be it in a court of law, a workplace, or a community. Is that how we want our world to work? What I must reject is the notion that I am guilty of appalling crimes because someone said that I am. I am not. I did not commit the crime I was accused of. This is not a question of differing interpretations of events: The events alleged against me simply did not happen."

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SECOND PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "Everyone reading this, or any of the words that may be written in response, is entitled to their opinion. I’m not going to spend my life arguing. But I’m also not going to walk through this world in shame. It has been demonstrated amply that there are many people who consider it unacceptable for me to want justice or to be cared about by others. Anyone who tried to support me or the idea that what happened to me was wrong has been viciously attacked — Margaret Atwood was repeatedly called a rape apologist. Just consider that for a moment. Consider what someone like her (we have met only briefly and are not friends) must have experienced and seen and how hard she had to work to become “Margaret Atwood.” Read her writing. The notion that she is the enemy of women is beyond ludicrous. And yet, for example, she’s been called a “shitty white woman” by a professor in the SFU publishing program in her university-sanctioned podcast on feminism. Writer and actor Carmen Aguirre, whose family worked for the underground resistance movement against the Pinochet dictatorship and who, as a child, was raped at gunpoint in the woods near UBC by a serial rapist, was called an MRA propagandist by Keith Maillard for writing an article in The Walrus defending my right to due process and essential humanity. Writers, predominantly women, have been blacklisted from conferences, lost publishing and teaching opportunities, and been professionally ostracized for the crime of not instantly condemning me. It is not an offence to survivors of assault, to women, to feminism, for me to be innocent of the claims being made about me. Accepting the fact that I was falsely accused does not and should not mean that women reporting sexual assault in the future will not be taken seriously. The last two-and-a-half years have been a hell I would not wish on anyone. I do not desire for anyone, including my accuser and her supporters, to be subjected to online bullying. I support a process in which both complainants and respondents are treated fairly by the legal system, the press, and the public."

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COMMENTARY: "Steven Galloway in his own words: I'm not a monster. I won't let false allegations define me," published by The National Post on July 13, 2018.

SUB-HEADING:  "In an exclusive account, author Steven Galloway reveals how shocking accusations of sexual assault devastated his career — and his life."

INTRODUCTION: "In an exclusive account, author Steven Galloway reveals for the first time how shocking accusations of sexual assault devastated his career — and his life. In the fall of 2015, Galloway was suspended as chair of the Creative Writing Program at the University of British Columbia for unspecified “serious allegations.” By the summer of 2016, he had been fired over what the university called an “irreparable breach of trust.” But last month, an arbitrator awarded Galloway $167,000, ruling that UBC violated his privacy rights and damaged his reputation. Now, in his own words, the celebrated novelist says he will no longer be silent."
 
GIST: "I have been silent for over two and a half years. At first, I was silent out of respect for the investigation undertaken by Justice Mary Ellen Boyd. Later, when I challenged the University of British Columbia’s characterization of Justice Boyd’s findings, I remained silent out of respect for the grievance process initiated by the faculty association. I have also been silent because responding to the allegations against me is complicated, fraught from the outset and only intensified by the unbelievable maelstrom that followed. I realize that anything I say will be used against me. I will be accused of victim-blaming and discouraging victims from coming forward. The hatred and gleeful malice I have seen directed at me, my family, and anyone with the temerity to suggest I am not a monster has shattered me. I have watched as individuals who have never met me spent the past few years relentlessly attacking me, treating it all like some sort of game, a way to carve out a name for themselves. They display their false virtue like the tail feathers of a peacock. One University of Alberta professor puts her hatred of me in her official bio, and when I wrote to her asking that she take into account that I am a human being with feelings, and that my children read what she says about me, she responded by hosting a live-tweeted “academic” conference in which I was called a rapist and compared to Robert Pickton. All victims of sexual assault are owed justice. All women should be listened to and all complaints and accusations thoroughly and fairly investigated. Many of the preconceptions we have about sexual assault have been, historically, entirely wrong. But listening, as a default position, should not mean that any accused person is automatically, irrevocably guilty. It is not the case that 100 per cent of assault allegations are true, though that certainly would make the world simpler. Only in fascist states does an allegation equal a conviction, be it in a court of law, a workplace, or a community. Is that how we want our world to work? What I must reject is the notion that I am guilty of appalling crimes because someone said that I am. I am not. I did not commit the crime I was accused of. This is not a question of differing interpretations of events: The events alleged against me simply did not happen. *** In the spring of 2013, a graduate student came to me to report that she had been sexually assaulted. She texted me seeking support, reluctant to disclose anything for fear of “fallout.” This was my response: “There will be NO fallout. I support you 100%.” When she reported her allegation to me, I replied, “I will do whatever you wish me to do.” The graduate student told me that a man who was interviewing for a job at the university had choked and groped her. She did not want to formally report the alleged assault but wanted assurance that the man would not get the job. I reported the incident to the Program Chair, Keith Maillard, and he notified the Graduate Advisor. Instead of taking the allegation to the Dean’s Office, we respected the graduate student’s request to keep her complaint confidential. Under Maillard’s direction, steps were taken by the three of us to ensure that the candidate didn’t get the position. The graduate student later texted me, “Did you have an opportunity to talk to Keith about removing (the applicant) from the (short)list?” I said yes, and she replied “Thank you, Steven. I feel a whole lot better.” The graduate student was a number of years older than I was and had already completed a different graduate degree. She had worked as a professor and was respected in her field. I was aware that during a previous professorship she had accused her department head of harassment with some “fallout,” so assumed that on reporting a sexual assault to me she was worried about a negative response. I cared about her and wanted to reassure her that would not be the case. I did not doubt her for a single moment. On Nov. 12, 2015, just days before her graduation, she reported to Keith Maillard that I had, in the spring of 2012, choked, groped and raped her. Maillard, with the help of an alumnus of the program and several other faculty members, began working on the case that would ultimately lead to the conclusion I was guilty. The Main Complainant, or MC, as she has become known, later changed her claim to allege three sexual assaults had occurred instead of one. Her claim of when the alleged assaults occurred changed, too, from 2012 to 2011, as did her claim of the location of the most horrific alleged assault. One of MC’s friends, a novelist who had graduated from the program years earlier, decided that the best way to support MC was to convince other people to bring complaints against me. She told UBC she knew of 19 others who would be coming forward with assault complaints, and the university, in turn, armed her with a letter on UBC letterhead soliciting their complaints, pledging to “honour your strength.” She then went through the writing community telling people I was a violent rapist and encouraging them to come forward. (This form letter and its paper trail were provided to Justice Mary Ellen Boyd during her investigation.)It was nearly two months before I found out what the allegations against me were. It was a terrifying time, one where I slowly learned the extent to which my former colleagues were committed to my guilt. I did not understand how it could be possible for there to be so many complaints against me. It turns out it wasn’t. The novelist collected complaints from seven people, all of whom were her friends and none of whom were current students at the time of investigation. Though I had taught at UBC for 15 years and the public appeal for complaints was printed and broadcast in most major media outlets in the country, all of those who would become the ancillary complainants were part of her immediate social circle. None of the ancillary complaints were of sexual assault. Three of the eight statements of complaint did not actually contain complaints; one, from a man who graduated in 2011, said he had come forward motivated by a resolve to support women. He wrote to Boyd: “I was sadly not surprised about the allegations because of the frequency with which rape and sexual assault against faculty members in universities all over the world come up, as well as the frequency of sexual assault/rape/harassment women have to endure in general, that is ironed over by the rape culture we live in. I was very shocked to hear that Steven has been accused of rape at first, but… I’m sadly resigned to the fact that it isn’t something unimaginable.” This manifesto is an accurate description of the mindset of my accusers, one where once something isn’t unimaginable it must have happened, and nothing is unimaginable. Another ancillary complainant said I wouldn’t let him submit poetry in my fiction class. Another said she once felt she had flirted with me, and later felt awkward about it. Another said that while I never behaved toward her in any way that was unprofessional, she felt that I should have spent more time at home given that I had a family. Another said I didn’t hire her for a job. Another said I didn’t hire her friend for a job. Another complained that I had asked her how she had come to know so much about human trafficking (the subject of her thesis), which offended her. All of these ancillary complaints are of a similar nature. All of these complaints are documented in signed complainant statements, all of the complainants disclose they had been told that I had choked and raped MC, and all of them hold sentiments mirroring those described above. Of the novelist who gathered the ancillary complaints, Justice Boyd concluded: “I found (her) a biased witness, who has perceived every minor incident here through her own biased lens. I am unable to place much, if any, weight on her evidence.” The one complaint that has garnered the most speculation online and in the media involves me slapping a graduated writer. This writer was confident, boisterous, and thrived on controversy. I liked her a great deal, as did everybody. She frequently punched me in the arm, and once put a snowball down my shirt. Once, while she was a graduate student, she was upset by a comment I made in jest and in response, she denigrated my work and slapped me in the face. I did not report this behaviour because it wasn’t necessary; I understood, as she did, the spirit of the behaviour and that no harm or disrespect was intended. After she slapped me, I continued the joke: I told her that once she graduated I was going to slap her back. It became a running joke between us, frequently referenced by her in person and publicly on social media. When she graduated several years later, I sat down beside her in full view of dozens of other people, lightly cuffed her and said, “Now we’re even.” We laughed at the time. She later posted to my Facebook page, “Besides, you bought me a $3 beer after, and that made me happy (I’m a simple woman).” The joke was unprofessional, and I regret having conducted myself that way. More broadly, treating students as peers was a mistake. When I began teaching at the age of 25, students were my peers; I felt absurd presenting myself as an authority figure. Over time this dynamic changed, and I failed to recognize it happening. Prior to becoming Chair of the program, I corrected my behaviour, though I did so too late in my career. But I am not and have never been a violent person and this incident was not an act of violence. As Justice Boyd stated: “Given what each of them actually experienced, knew or understood about each other in this situation — namely that the slap was the culmination of their own longstanding ‘joke’ — it is difficult to conclude that the slap was an act of harassment or abuse. The matter was out of mind for the next three-and-a-half years before (she) was reminded what had occurred, and in light of the recent allegations regarding MC, reconsidered the matter and decided (in the context of allegations of choking and rape) that the slap was objectionable.” I try to imagine the ancillary complainants believed they were doing the right thing, that they had resolved to believe stories of assault, no matter what, and that they were trying to provide important support for MC. When I knew these people, they were good people. But faced with untruths, they responded with malice. I will never understand how they were able to do what they did; how they thought that, for example, my having made a joke to a male friend on Facebook about a Captain Haddock costume made it more likely that I was a rapist. These people were not victimized by me. They have gone on to publish books, receive grants, get jobs, and win major literary awards. If they have wounds, their wounds are self-inflicted. My entire life appears to have been reframed. Writers who never took a class from me have been claiming on Twitter that I was a terrible teacher who didn’t help them. People who have never interacted with me have said I treated them badly. It has been suggested I am somehow homophobic. My race has been attacked after, in response to an allegation that I was a white supremacist, it was revealed on Twitter that I have some Indigenous ancestry. (Like many adopted people, I’m not sure of my entire or precise racial makeup or biological family history, and have never commented publicly on it.) It is difficult to describe how fundamentally disorienting it is to have your life, your words, everything about you suddenly and vehemently re-ordered and re-categorized to fit a prevailing false narrative. It makes you doubt yourself, through to your core. Even though I knew that what people were saying wasn’t true, it began to feel true. This is what bullying does: It makes you hate yourself. My former friend and colleague Keith Maillard, a man I both loved and admired, tweeted in June 2017 that he was a “proud member of the Twitter mob” that has been relentlessly hounding me. For 20 years I knew him as a thoughtful, empathetic, compassionate human being. He was a father figure to me — I have literally taken him out for dinner on Father’s Day. He never spoke to me again after MC made her accusation and has brandished his pitchfork with a zeal I will never be able to fully comprehend. I will say this again: I did not assault my accuser. A highly respected former B.C. Supreme Court judge, Justice Mary Ellen Boyd, after conducting an exhaustive, five-month investigation, determined that she was “unable to find” that any of MC’s allegations happened, and that not a single one of the ancillary complaints constituted any form of misconduct. She did so applying the lowest burden of proof available to a complainant anywhere in our society, with the fewest protections for a respondent. Under the standard applied — the balance of probabilities — all that was required was for MC’s accusation against me to be slightly more plausible than any defence I might offer. The complainant was permitted to have legal counsel present at all interviews with Justice Boyd, while I was not (the collective agreement between the university and the faculty association prohibits it). She was not cross examined, and I was not permitted to put any questions to her. She wrote a narrative; I provided a written response; we were each interviewed, and she was then given an opportunity to respond to my evidence. We were both permitted to suggest witnesses Justice Boyd might like to interview. MC alleged that I assaulted her on three separate occasions in the spring of 2011. I provided evidence to the contrary. We began an extramarital affair in the spring of 2011, which lasted for two years. She was a former professor, older than me, a mature student in the Creative Writing program; I was a sessional instructor in the program at the time our relationship began; both of us were married. After initially denying the existence of our relationship, she was confronted with over 250 pages of text messages, Facebook posts and photographs exchanged between us during this time frame that showed our closeness, our care for each other, at which point she admitted there had been a two-year relationship, which she characterized as “traumatic bonding.” Despite what has been reported, I have never sought to block MC’s access to the Boyd Report. She received it over a year and a half ago with redactions applied by UBC and reviewed by an investigator with B.C.’s Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA) in order to protect the personal information of numerous persons other than MC. I did not and do not have the power to block MC from seeing the portions of the Boyd Report to which she is legally entitled. As for the few pieces of what was determined to be my personal information that are redacted, I have no intention of waiving any rights that the law provides me. Given that MC has relied on the same laws to keep her identity confidential throughout this process — a right I was not afforded, with catastrophic results — it is not reasonable or fair for her, or anyone, to ask this of me. My rights and privacy have been trampled upon enough to last me a lifetime. MC is well aware of the contents of the report and its findings, particularly those relating to her allegations of sexual assault. She is also aware that she admitted to the two-year sexual relationship between us, which Justice Boyd characterized thusly: “From the Spring of 2011 until the Spring of 2013, the parties were involved in an extramarital affair, in which there is no allegation of harassment or sexual assault.” One of the most persistent claims related to the Boyd Report is that I have violated a confidentiality agreement by disclosing its contents. This is not true. While I was being investigated I was not permitted to speak publicly about the proceedings (a condition not imposed on any of the complainants, many of whom did speak to the media), and I am now not permitted to speak about the arbitration process (as ordered by the arbitrator), but the information contained in the Boyd Report is legally mine. Were I misquoting it, the other parties in possession of the report would be well within their rights to say as much. They have not. I do not deny that my relationship with my accuser was unethical. I was, am and will always be deeply sorry for it. I let down my family, my employer, my colleagues, and the community to which I once belonged. I regret many things, like most people. I do not intend for the above to serve as my sole apology; I have and will continue to make my apologies personally to those whom I have let down. Before having any idea that MC was accusing me of sexual assault, I tried to apologize to her for our relationship, leaving a voicemail that has been reported in the press. My apology to MC stands: I accept full responsibility for my part in our relationship. It has caused catastrophic damage, and we both owed ourselves and our families better conduct. I owed my employer better conduct. For some, there is nothing I could say or do that will satisfy them. I accept that. Everyone reading this, or any of the words that may be written in response, is entitled to their opinion. I’m not going to spend my life arguing. But I’m also not going to walk through this world in shame. It has been demonstrated amply that there are many people who consider it unacceptable for me to want justice or to be cared about by others. Anyone who tried to support me or the idea that what happened to me was wrong has been viciously attacked — Margaret Atwood was repeatedly called a rape apologist. Just consider that for a moment. Consider what someone like her (we have met only briefly and are not friends) must have experienced and seen and how hard she had to work to become “Margaret Atwood.” Read her writing. The notion that she is the enemy of women is beyond ludicrous. And yet, for example, she’s been called a “shitty white woman” by a professor in the SFU publishing program in her university-sanctioned podcast on feminism. Writer and actor Carmen Aguirre, whose family worked for the underground resistance movement against the Pinochet dictatorship and who, as a child, was raped at gunpoint in the woods near UBC by a serial rapist, was called an MRA propagandist by Keith Maillard for writing an article in The Walrus defending my right to due process and essential humanity. Writers, predominantly women, have been blacklisted from conferences, lost publishing and teaching opportunities, and been professionally ostracized for the crime of not instantly condemning me. It is not an offence to survivors of assault, to women, to feminism, for me to be innocent of the claims being made about me. Accepting the fact that I was falsely accused does not and should not mean that women reporting sexual assault in the future will not be taken seriously. The last two-and-a-half years have been a hell I would not wish on anyone. I do not desire for anyone, including my accuser and her supporters, to be subjected to online bullying. I support a process in which both complainants and respondents are treated fairly by the legal system, the press, and the public. It is only thanks to the support of my partner, family, and friends that I am still here. I have been humiliated and vilified, and I’ve felt it. To those who were hurling vitriol at me, congratulations. Your punches landed, and they hurt. Particularly those who knew me and rewrote me as a monster: I’m not a monster. I’m the person you knew who is flawed, who has made mistakes.
I know what I have done and what I haven’t. I’ve done good in this world as well as bad, and it is not for anyone to strip me of my humanity. Many of my former colleagues, people I loved, seemed to celebrate my destruction. I am forever unwelcome in the program that was my home since I was a 19-year-old undergraduate student (one professor once told the Globe and Mail that it felt like I was born in the halls of the Creative Writing Program). I became a writer because of my time as a student at UBC, and I wanted to pay the program back for that, to ensure that others could benefit the way I had. Instead I became a bogeyman, expressly presented as a danger to the student body, as an agent of harm. From the day I was suspended, it was inconceivable that I could ever safely walk those halls again, regardless of the outcome of the Boyd investigation. The fact is, no faculty member, staff member, or student is currently safe at the University of British Columbia — not because of me, but because of how the administration handled allegations against me. UBC is an institution whose primary motivator is self-protection. If you doubt this, ask yourself why the university has gone to such great lengths to hide the fact that one of their professors was cleared of sexual assault charges. In the current climate, exoneration is a PR nightmare. When my first novel was accepted for publication I was 23 years old and encountered nothing but supportive people in the world of Canadian writing. That changed overnight. Recently, “CanLit” has been described as a dumpster fire. Though juvenile, the description is apt. I’ve watched what I always imagined to be a kind, inclusive, supportive community turn against itself. The cruelty some people have displayed has been shocking. There have always been those who seek to build themselves up by tearing others down, but I’d never seen so much of it until recently. We have been taken over by a bloodlust in a search for targets of indignation. When one of my children comes to me and complains that one of their siblings called them a mean name, my response, which I got from my grandmother, is to ask them if they really are what their sister or brother said they were. They answer no, and I tell them knowing that is enough.
I’m taking my grandmother’s advice now. Though I have no wish to quarrel with anyone, I will no longer be silent. I won’t accept further shame or bullying, or the lies that have been told about me. I was investigated and I was exonerated. An arbitrator ruled that UBC violated my privacy rights and caused damage to my reputation. I won’t let others define me in ways that ignore these central facts."

The entire commentary can be read at: 
https://nationalpost.com/opinion/steven-galloway-in-his-own-words-exclusive







Book review series: (Part 5) Teina Pora. New Zealand; Eleanor Black's story in 'Stuff' - ""New book on Teina Pora tells of personal crusade to clear an innocent man." (The book: 'In Dark Places: The Confessions of Teina Pora and an Ex-Cop's Fight for Justice,' by Michael Bennett."..."The book, published by Paul Little Books, also concludes that Susan Burdett's true killer must now be brought to justice. "The person who beat Susan repeatedly with purpose and with determination until she lay dead — that person remains unconvicted for her murder," writes Bennett. "The end of this book is not, and cannot be allowed to be, the end of this story."



Round bookshelf in public library


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "Bennett says the assurances offered by Prime Minister John Key and Justice Minister Amy Adams the day after the Privy Council decision was released in March 2015 — that it proved the justice system worked — is "b******* of the highest order". "His case only ever became of public and political interest because unpaid private individuals committed themselves to putting right what our justice system had got so terribly wrong," he writes. The book, which tells of investigator Tim McKinnel's six-year personal crusade to get Pora released from prison, shines a light on the likelihood that other New Zealanders are falsely imprisoned — especially those with FASD, or foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which affects Pora. Dr Valerie McGinn diagnosed Pora with FASD in 2013, which was helpful for the team pushing his case, but also devastating. "For the man for whom they feel such affection and respect, FASD is another life sentence," writes Bennett, also a filmmaker, who made a documentary about Pora, Confessions of Prisoner T. "But this sentence, no one can ever overturn."

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PUBLISHER'S NOTE: In the roughly 10 years since I began publishing The Charles Smith Blog some of the issues I have explored - as well as some of the cases I have been following - have become the subject matter of books. This prompted me recently - as I searched anxiously for ways of keeping me occupied during the languid summer hours - other than sitting on the patio, drinking a cool glass of white wine, and reading the latest Steven King - it occurred to me that a book review series based in my previous posts from the outset of the Blog would be just what the pathologist ordered. I would invite my readers to offer me their own suggestions  for inclusion by email to hlevy15@gmail.com. Have a great summer.

Harold Levy: Publisher. The Charles Smith Blog.

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BOOK REVIEW: In Dark Places: The Confessions of Teina Pora and an Ex-Cop's Fight for Justice, by Michael Bennett, subject of  story by Eleanor Black entitled "New book on Teina Pora tells of personal crusade to clear an innocent man," published by 'Stuff on March 18, 2016.

PHOTO CAPTION: "Teina Pora was freed after 21 years in prison."

GIST: "Teina Pora, convicted for a murder he did not commit and wrongly imprisoned for 21 years, needs an apology, according to a new book out on Friday. In Dark Places: The Confessions of Teina Pora and an Ex-Cop's Fight for Justice, writer Michael Bennett lays out the many strands of Pora's story over the course of 23 years — from the morning a 17-year-old car thief was picked up by police, to the night the Privy Council in London quashed his convictions. Pora was wrongly convicted of the 1992 rape and murder of 39-year-old Susan Burdett at her Papatoetoe home. He gave police a false confession, motivated by a $20,000 reward for information.  Bennett says the assurances offered by Prime Minister John Key and Justice Minister Amy Adams the day after the Privy Council decision was released in March 2015 — that it proved the justice system worked — is "b******* of the highest order". "His case only ever became of public and political interest because unpaid private individuals committed themselves to putting right what our justice system had got so terribly wrong," he writes. The book, which tells of investigator Tim McKinnel's six-year personal crusade to get Pora released from prison, shines a light on the likelihood that other New Zealanders are falsely imprisoned — especially those with FASD, or foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which affects Pora. Dr Valerie McGinn diagnosed Pora with FASD in 2013, which was helpful for the team pushing his case, but also devastating. "For the man for whom they feel such affection and respect, FASD is another life sentence," writes Bennett, also a filmmaker, who made a documentary about Pora, Confessions of Prisoner T. "But this sentence, no one can ever overturn." Dr McGinn estimates about 20 per cent of the prison population may have undiagnosed FASD. It affects a sufferer's ability to remember things, articulate their thoughts, understand questions and think through the consequences of their actions. The book, published by Paul Little Books, also concludes that Susan Burdett's true killer must now be brought to justice. "The person who beat Susan repeatedly with purpose and with determination until she lay dead — that person remains unconvicted for her murder," writes Bennett. "The end of this book is not, and cannot be allowed to be, the end of this story." In his book, Bennett reveals how McKinnel met with serial rapist Malcolm Rewa, whose DNA was found on Burdett's body, to see if he could elicit a confession, or at least gather useful information for the case. "Perhaps Rewa might reveal something which would help bring justice for Teina Pora, and bring closure for the family of Susan Burdett," writes Bennett of their meeting at Paremoremo Prison. "Perhaps. Perhaps not. But if you don't try ... " Bennett also tells the story from the perspectives of lawyer Marie Dyhrberg, who represented Pora at his retrial in 2000; Jonathan Krebs, who led the Privy Council appeal; and members of Pora's family."



The entire story can be read at the link below:
 
Read the Wikipedia entry at the link below:  "According to The New Zealand Herald investigative reporter, Phil Taylor, who wrote extensively about the case, Pora's 'confession' was flawed. He "couldn't find the street Burdett lived in, couldn't point out her house when police stood him in front of it, described Burdett as fair and fat when she was dark and slim, didn't know the (victim's) bed was a waterbed...couldn't describe the house layout... didn't know the position her body was left in, (and) said she screamed and yelled when her closest neighbour heard only a series of dull thuds. And those he claimed had raped her were all cleared by DNA." Gisli Gudjonsson, professor of forensic psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, London, was asked to review the nine hours of videotaped interviews and talked with Pora in prison. Gudjonsson is an authority on how people can be induced to make false "confessions". He said Pora's confessions were the result of intellectual impairment and his desire to claim the $20,000 reward - Pora was told there was an "indemnity against prosecution for non-principal offenders".[10] Gudjonsson believed the convictions were "fundamentally flawed and unsafe"

PURCHASING INFORMATION: In Dark Places: The confessions of Teina Pora and an ex-cop's fight for justice, by Michael Bennett. Published by Paul Little Books.
 
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Shawn Brown: Michigan: Unfortunate Development. A judge has denied his application for a new trial in connection with the death of Brown's 5-month-old son..."Prosecutors alleged that Brown shook his son on Jan. 22, 2010 and that the baby died two days later from injuries to the brain. But the Innocent Clinic argues that the diagnosis of shaken baby syndrome or abusive head trauma is disputed and that Brown's trial attorney, James Goulooze, did not present an expert to refute the evidence presented by prosecutors."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "At the January hearing, Dr. Joseph Scheller, a Baltimore doctor of pediatrics and neurology, testified for the Innocence Clinic that his conclusion after a review of the medical records was there were other explanations for the baby's death than that he was shaken or struck in the head. He called shaken baby syndrome "an idea that is still in flux." In her opinion, Lincoln said, "It is clear that there are some in the medical community who view diagnosis of abusive head trauma in children with suspicion. It is not clear however that this is a mainstream medical opinion. As noted by the People, no less an authority than the Journal of Pediatrics has published that abusive head trauma is 'generally accepted' diagnosis 'by physicians who frequently encounter suspected child abuse cases.'

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STORY: "Judge denies new trial for Battle Creek man convicted of killing his 5-month-old son," by reporter Trace Christenson, published by The Battle Creek Enquirer in July 12, 2018.


Richard Wright: New York; Arson 'science' case: On-going retrial..."A jury convicted Wright of the four murder and single arson counts the following year but Ceresia threw out Wright's conviction and sentence of 25-years to life in October. His decision was based on motions by defense attorney Michael P. McDermott that argued developments in scientific technology exposed the methods used by the original arson investigators as being unable to prove that an accelerant was used in the fire. No traces of an accelerant were found. At the original trial, Williams testified that Wright admitted he set the fire. At the time, Williams faced 28 burglary charges that were later reduced to a trespassing case in exchange for his testimony."


"PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "Williams' recollection of the conversation is crucial to Special Prosecutor Jasper Mills' effort to convict Wright of four counts of second-degree murder and a count of first-degree arson in the Sept. 1, 1986, fire at 17 108th St. that killed Tara Gilbert, 14, and Meredith Pipino, 13. Williams, 52, said Wright confessed to setting the fire when the two men smoked crack about three weeks after the fire. "I didn't want to do it. They weren't supposed to be home," Williams said Wright told him as they  got high in his bedroom at 489 Fifth Ave. "I lit it. I threw it. And I ran," Wright allegedly told him.  Williams said he promised Wright he would tell no one. But that promise evaporated when Williams was arrested on burglary charges in Cohoes on Jan. 20, 1987. Williams talked to investigators and Wright was arrested the next day."

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STORY: "Suspect shouts 'stop ... lying' at fatal fire trial," by reporter Kenneth Crowe II, published by The Union Times on July 12, 2018.

SUB-HEADING: "Richard Wright explodes at witness describes alleged confession."

GIST: "The man facing a retrial on charges of setting a fire that killed two teenagers 32 years ago screamed at the prosecution's key witness Thursday as witness described the confession he said the defendant made to him. "Stop (expletive) lying," Richard Wright shouted at Martin "Danny" Williams III as Williams described the conversation he claimed they had as they were getting high smoking crack cocaine in Wright's Lansingburgh home. Williams appeared unfazed by the outburst. State Supreme Court Justice Andrew Ceresia reprimanded Wright, who spent much of the rest of the day staring at Williams. Williams' recollection of the conversation is crucial to Special Prosecutor Jasper Mills' effort to convict Wright of four counts of second-degree murder and a count of first-degree arson in the Sept. 1, 1986, fire at 17 108th St. that killed Tara Gilbert, 14, and Meredith Pipino, 13. Williams, 52, said Wright confessed to setting the fire when the two men smoked crack about three weeks after the fire. "I didn't want to do it. They weren't supposed to be home," Williams said Wright told him as they  got high in his bedroom at 489 Fifth Ave. "I lit it. I threw it. And I ran," Wright allegedly told him.  Williams said he promised Wright he would tell no one. But that promise evaporated when Williams was arrested on burglary charges in Cohoes on Jan. 20, 1987. Williams talked to investigators and Wright was arrested the next day. "I was looking for a deal. No one offered me immunity," said Williams, who stated several times he wanted to straighten out his life when he was arrested. A jury convicted Wright of the four murder and single arson counts the following year but Ceresia threw out Wright's conviction and sentence of 25-years to life in October. His decision was based on motions by defense attorney Michael P. McDermott that argued developments in scientific technology exposed the methods used by the original arson investigators as being unable to prove that an accelerant was used in the fire. No traces of an accelerant were found. At the original trial, Williams testified that Wright admitted he set the fire. At the time, Williams faced 28 burglary charges that were later reduced to a trespassing case in exchange for his testimony. Mills attempted to protect Williams from defense attacks that he was testifying in return for a deal on the burglary charges.  Williams testified that he had served a year on a misdemeanor criminal trespass charge that was to satisfy the Troy burglaries before he testified against Wright in 1988. During cross examination, McDermott attacked Williams' testimony, pointing out contradictions between what he said Thursday and statements he made to police and to a Rensselaer County grand jury in January 1987. McDermott noted that Williams avoided prosecution on 28 burglary charges that each carried up to 15 years in prison - when he made a deal with prosecutors and agreed to testify at the original trial. During nearly three hours of questioning, McDermott hammered away at Williams repeatedly referencing his statement to Troy police in 1987; reading portions of his grand jury testimony; and also reading parts of his testimony during the 1988 trial in which Wright was convicted. When pressed about discrepancies in his recollection, Williams said he could not remember everything he said to authorities three decades ag0. "I (overdosed) in 1992. I don't remember a lot of things," Williams said. McDermott also went after Williams accusing him of lying.  The defense attorney questioned why Williams told police initially that Wright set 17 108th St. on fire to get rid of Donald Gilbert at the behest of Puerto Rican drug dealers they had stolen money and drugs from and then changed the story to say Wright was getting back at Gilbert for stealing tapes from him.  McDermott also questioned why he told police recently that the now-deceased James Ohler had given him a bottle filled with gasoline. Rather than take his chance with another jury, Wright opted for a bench trial. Ceresia will determine whether he is guilty of murder and arson charges. Williams said he didn't want to return from Colorado to testify at the retrial. "I had put this all behind me. I didn't want to go through living this all over again," Williams said. Williams' testimony was the second notable development in the case Thursday morning. Earlier in the day, Ceresia visited  the fire scene in Lansingburgh to see the layout of the apartment. Ceresia and court officials were escorted to the fire scene by court officers. Wright, 50, was brought to 108th Street by the sheriff’s office but declined to go inside.  McDermott and special prosecutor Jasper Mills, were among the group of people who accompanied the judge. Ceresia climbed the staircase to the second floor to see where Gilbert and Pipino died. The  blaze had consumed the rear of the building. Mills wanted the judge to see how small the apartment is. Wright was serving a 25-years-to-life prison sentence when his conviction was vacated."

The entire story can be read at the link below:
https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Judge-visits-crime-scene-in-fatal-Troy-arson-case-13069178.php

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;



Book Review Series: (Part 4): “Forensic Science Reform – Protecting the Innocent."...Mike Bowers and Wendy Koen. Reviewed by Phil Locke of The Wrongful Convictions Blog..."C.M. (Mike) Bowers has teamed up with Wendy Koen to produce a definitive work addressing many of these issues. Mike is forensic dentist who has been at the forefront of debunking the junk science of bite mark analysis. Wendy Koen is a former attorney with the California Innocence Project. Mike also maintains the website CSIDDS dedicated to promoting truth, reason, logic, and actual science in the discipline of forensics."


Round bookshelf in public library


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: In the roughly 10 years since I began publishing The Charles Smith Blog some of the issues I have explored - as well as some of the cases I have been following - have become the subject matter of books. This prompted me recently - as I searched anxiously for ways of keeping me occupied during the languid summer hours - other than sitting on the patio, drinking a cool glass of white wine, and reading the latest Steven King - it occurred to me that a book review series based in my previous posts from the outset of the Blog would be just what the pathologist ordered. I would invite my readers to offer me their own suggestions  for inclusion by email to hlevy15@gmail.com. Have a great summer.

Harold Levy: Publisher. The Charles Smith Blog.

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PASSAGE OF THE DAY: ""For the last 8 1/2 years, I have been working to ‘help’ overcome the devastating effects that incorrect, bogus, and non-scientific forensics has had on our justice system in producing wrongful convictions.  And I’ve also been writing about it on this blog since its inception. C.M. (Mike) Bowers has teamed up with Wendy Koen to produce a definitive work addressing many of these issues. Mike is forensic dentist who has been at the forefront of debunking the junk science of bite mark analysis. Wendy Koen is a former attorney with the California Innocence Project. Mike also maintains the website CSIDDS dedicated to promoting truth, reason, logic, and actual science in the discipline of forensics."

BOOK REVIEW:  “Forensic Science Reform – Protecting the Innocent,” by Dr. Michael Bowers and Wendy Koen, as reviewed by Phil Locke on the Wrongful Convictions Blog on January 21, 2017.

GIST: "For the last 8 1/2 years, I (Phil Locke) have been working to ‘help’ overcome the devastating effects that incorrect, bogus, and non-scientific forensics has had on our justice system in producing wrongful convictions.  And I’ve also been writing about it on this blog since its inception. C.M. (Mike) Bowers has teamed up with Wendy Koen to produce a definitive work addressing many of these issues. Mike is forensic dentist who has been at the forefront of debunking the junk science of bite mark analysis. Wendy Koen is a former attorney with the California Innocence Project. Mike also maintains the website CSIDDS dedicated to promoting truth, reason, logic, and actual science in the discipline of forensics. The data below from the National Registry of Exonerations shows that false or misleading forensic evidence is a contributing factor in 24% of all the wrongful convictions logged by the registry to date.........This book provides substantial reinforcement for the ground-breaking “NAS Report,” published in 2009. Please see:  https://wrongfulconvictionsblog.org/2013/06/29/the-nas-report-aftermath/  However, this book also includes material not covered by the original NAS report. This book is a “must” for the library of anyone committed to ensuring that ALL forensics is based upon true science, logic, reason, and fact. Justin O. Brookes, Director of the California Innocence Project: “My former brilliant student, Wendy Koen, along with Dr. Michael Bowers (the expert behind the Richards’ exoneration) have written a new book you all should consider ordering–“Forensic Science Reform:Protecting The Innocent.”  It’s an excellent addition to the scholarship in our world and could be helpful to those of you struggling with forensic issues. I’m going to have our library order a hard copy.” Valena Beety, Deputy Director of the WVU Law Clinical Law Program, chairing the West Virginia Innocence Project: “I’ve just ordered it for our law library at WVU and I anticipate it being a helpful resource. Thank you to everyone involved in making this book happen!”"

The entire review can be read at the link below:
https://wrongfulconvictionsblog.org/2017/01/21/book-review-forensic-science-reform-protecting-the-innocent/

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

Friday, July 13, 2018

Kevin Cooper: Death Row; California; New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof strikes an optomistic note: "We May Be Able to Get Kevin Cooper Off Death Row."..."The horror began with a nighttime home invasion and the stabbings of a white family, and was compounded when sheriff’s deputies arrested and framed a black man for murder. That’s my view, and now after 35 years the wheels of justice in California may finally be creaking into motion. I last wrote about the case two months ago, and there’s a hopeful development: Gov. Jerry Brown seems to be moving toward allowing advanced DNA testing that may correct a gross injustice abetted by the police, prosecutors, judges, politicians and journalists."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "This was a horrific crime, the 1983 Manson-style stabbing murders of Doug and Peggy Ryen, both 41; their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica; and an 11-year neighbor, Chris Hughes. The Ryens’ other child, Josh, had his throat slashed and was left for dead. Josh, who was 8 at the time, initially identified several white people as the killers; multiple witnesses saw three white people after the attack in what was apparently the Ryens’ stolen car; and a woman reported to the police that her boyfriend, a white convicted murderer recently released from prison, appeared to have taken part in the crime. She gave sheriff’s deputies the bloody coveralls he had worn that night, and deputies threw them away. Instead, deputies arrested Kevin Cooper, a 25-year-old black man, and when they couldn’t find his fingerprints or hairs linking him to the crime scene, they began to plant evidence — or so concluded five federal appeals judges. Cooper was sentenced to death after a trial tainted by open racism."

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "“The ball has moved forward by this letter, quite a bit,” said Norman Hile, who has worked pro bono defending Cooper for 14 years. “We’re certainly better off than we were. We’re encouraged that they’re considering testing and we think we can convince them to do it.” One crucial piece of evidence to be tested is a T-shirt stained with the Ryens’ blood, because new “touch DNA” or “habitual wearer DNA” testing may establish who wore it. There are also hairs found in the victims’ hands that have yet to be tested — hairs that are blond or brown. An orange towel apparently used by the murderers has not been tested at all."

NORMAN HILE: (He has worked pro bono defending Cooper for 14 years);

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COMMENTARY: "We May Be Able to Get Kevin Cooper Off Death Row," by Nicholas Kristof, published by The New York Times on July 11, 2018.

PHOTO CAPTION: "After 35 years, the wheels of justice may finally be creaking into motion for Kevin Cooper."

GIST:  "The horror began with a nighttime home invasion and the stabbings of a white family, and was compounded when sheriff’s deputies arrested and framed a black man for murder. That’s my view, and now after 35 years the wheels of justice in California may finally be creaking into motion. I last wrote about the case two months ago, and there’s a hopeful development: Gov. Jerry Brown seems to be moving toward allowing advanced DNA testing that may correct a gross injustice abetted by the police, prosecutors, judges, politicians and journalists. This was a horrific crime, the 1983 Manson-style stabbing murders of Doug and Peggy Ryen, both 41; their 10-year-old daughter, Jessica; and an 11-year neighbor, Chris Hughes. The Ryens’ other child, Josh, had his throat slashed and was left for dead. Josh, who was 8 at the time, initially identified several white people as the killers; multiple witnesses saw three white people after the attack in what was apparently the Ryens’ stolen car; and a woman reported to the police that her boyfriend, a white convicted murderer recently released from prison, appeared to have taken part in the crime. She gave sheriff’s deputies the bloody coveralls he had worn that night, and deputies threw them away. Instead, deputies arrested Kevin Cooper, a 25-year-old black man, and when they couldn’t find his fingerprints or hairs linking him to the crime scene, they began to plant evidence — or so concluded five federal appeals judges. Cooper was sentenced to death after a trial tainted by open racism. So Cooper has now spent more than 80 percent of his adult life behind bars for a brutal murder even though federal judges, law school deans, F.B.I. veterans and a former president of the American Bar Association say he may well be innocent. Yet California officials, including Brown and many others, refused to allow advanced DNA testing, even though Cooper’s lawyers would pay for it. I’ve written about Cooper’s case repeatedly for eight years, and finally in May I wrote what may be the longest column in New York Times history, a piece of visual journalism laying out the evidence that the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office framed Cooper and that Democratic and Republican politicians alike later blocked the DNA testing that could prove his innocence. That seemed to break a dam. Pope Francis sent a letter through his representative to the governor. The Los Angeles Times and The San Francisco Chronicle published editorials calling on Brown to allow the DNA testing. Senator Dianne Feinstein backed testing, as did Senator Kamala Harris, who told me she regretted that she had not allowed it when she was California’s attorney general. And Kim Kardashian fired off tweets. Now, in a letter sent by an aide, Brown has asked Cooper’s lawyers practical questions about how to proceed: Which lab would do the testing, precisely which methods would be used, and would testing also be able to compare any DNA found to that of the white suspects believed by the defense to be the real perpetrators? “The ball has moved forward by this letter, quite a bit,” said Norman Hile, who has worked pro bono defending Cooper for 14 years. “We’re certainly better off than we were. We’re encouraged that they’re considering testing and we think we can convince them to do it.” One crucial piece of evidence to be tested is a T-shirt stained with the Ryens’ blood, because new “touch DNA” or “habitual wearer DNA” testing may establish who wore it. There are also hairs found in the victims’ hands that have yet to be tested — hairs that are blond or brown. An orange towel apparently used by the murderers has not been tested at all. It has felt strange to me as a columnist, and it may feel peculiar to you as a reader, that I have devoted so much space over the years to the case of a single man awaiting execution, even if he is innocent. But this case is also a window into the much broader problem of an often dysfunctional criminal justice system that particularly oppresses the indigent. At least 162 people on death row in the United States have been exonerated since 1973, and one academic study estimated that 4.1 percent of those on death row in the U.S. may be innocent. That suggests that about 115 people now awaiting execution nationwide were wrongfully convicted. When people have been exonerated, science has been the savior — particularly DNA testing, cited by heroic lawyers and nonprofits — while the courts, politicians, law enforcement agencies and the news media have not (with some exceptions) been aggressive in righting these wrongs.
Is it possible that I’m mistaken about Cooper’s innocence? Of course. So let’s test the evidence and find out before the state executes him. Thanks to all who spoke up, from the pope to Kardashian, and let’s hope that Brown proceeds soon with the advanced DNA testing. I’m betting that testing will not only free an innocent man but also lay bare police corruption and a criminal justice system that too often doesn’t have anything to do with justice."

The entire commentary can be found at the link below:



https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/11/opinion/kevin-cooper-jerry-brown-death-row.html?emc=edit_nk_20180711&nl=nickkristof&nlid=5762908620180711&te=1

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;

Sandra Higgins: Ireland: Irish Times reports that after facing four previous trials, the childminder who has protested her innocence on a charge of harming a baby in her care from the outset will not be retried..."The decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions not to have a fifth trial of child minder Sandra Higgins bring to an end a six-year criminal justice process that will now have no resolution. Ms Higgins entered that process with the presumption of innocence and leaves with the same status."


PASSAGE OF THE DAY: "Cavan, had pleaded not guilty to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to a baby girl at the accused’s home on March 28th, 2012. The child survived. In June, 2015, Ms Higgins first went on trial but the jury was discharged after failing to reach a verdict. A retrial followed in May, 2016, but it collapsed after it emerged a jury had been Googling the background of a witness in the case. In January, 2018, another jury was sworn in for a third trial but an unspecified legal issue arose before the trial properly opened and so the jury was discharged. And last month the fourth trial process collapsed with it emerged emails between expert witnesses in the case had not been disclosed to the defence. The fact the expert witnesses were in contact was not the contentious issue. Instead, it was the non-disclosure of that contact to the defence side in the trial that caused problems."

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STORY: "DPP's decision not to retry Sandra Higgins brings end to saga," by reporter Conor Lally, published by The Irish Times on July 13, 2018.

SUB-HEADING:  "Cavan childminder who had been accused of harming baby faced four previous trials."



PHOTO CAPTION: "Sandra Higgins (37) arrives on Thursday at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court where the DPP entered a nolle prosequi against her."

GIST: "The decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions not to have a fifth trial of child minder Sandra Higgins bring to an end a six-year criminal justice process that will now have no resolution. Ms. Higgins entered that process with the presumption of innocence and leaves with the same status.
Since the date of the alleged harm caused to the baby in her care, on March 28th, 2012, a lengthy criminal investigation has run its course and the DPP authorised criminal charges to be laid against her. However, when the case finally reached the courts, a multitude of problems arose, resulting in three aborted trial processes and a hung jury at the end of the one trial that ran its course. The DPP does not explain its decisions, including why it does not retry particular cases. Informed legal sources said in some cases it becomes clear during an initial trial that the evidence is not as strong as first believed. Because of that, if a jury fails to reach a verdict or a trial is discontinued for any reason, the DPP will decide against a retrial.  In other cases, like that of Sandra Collins; when repeated efforts at a trial do not succeed, other factors come in to play, the sources said. “If the DPP goes again and again; at some point it begins to appear like perhaps there’s campaign against a defendant,” said one.
Even the perception that there may be a campaign against a defendant, and the damage that might do to the case and the wider justice system, is enough to discouraged a retrial, the source added. ‘Tipping point’: Another legal source concurs: “It may seem it’s being rerun again and again until the ‘right’ outcome is achieved; as if it’s been decided from the outset the person is guilty.” A “tipping point” was reached and a case would become “contaminated”. “If someone is presented to the public, in court and in the media, as the accused often enough is there a chance that in itself influences a jury against the defendant? That’s what the DPP has to consider.” There was nothing to stop the State proceeding with a fifth trial process in the case of Ms Higgins though the 37-year-old from Cavan could have mounted a legal challenge to stop it. Ms Higgins (37) of The Beeches, Drumgola Wood, Cavan, had pleaded not guilty to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to a baby girl at the accused’s home on March 28th, 2012. The child survived. In June, 2015, Ms Higgins first went on trial but the jury was discharged after failing to reach a verdict. A retrial followed in May, 2016, but it collapsed after it emerged a jury had been Googling the background of a witness in the case. In January, 2018, another jury was sworn in for a third trial but an unspecified legal issue arose before the trial properly opened and so the jury was discharged. And last month the fourth trial process collapsed with it emerged emails between expert witnesses in the case had not been disclosed to the defence. The fact the expert witnesses were in contact was not the contentious issue. Instead, it was the non-disclosure of that contact to the defence side in the trial that caused problems."

The entire story can be read at the link below: